12/20/2004, 00.00
IRAQ
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We shall celebrate Christmas even amidst all the violence, Chaldean Patriarch says

by Dario Salvi

Church leaders are united to honour victims and oppose terrorism. They express solidarity with the Shiite community in Karbala and Najaf hit by deadly violence yesterday.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Mgr Emmanuel Delly, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, told AsiaNews that the leaders of Iraq's Catholic and Orthodox Churches "will not send or receive official Season's Greetings" to protest the attacks against the 'houses of God'  (churches and mosques) of the last few months and to honour the victims of terrorist violence.

Speaking by telephone, Patriarch Delly reiterated his condemnation of all the acts of violence that are marring the "martyred ground of Iraq". He added that despite them "Christmas celebrations will take place regularly" except for Christmas Mass which has "been cancelled due to the night-time curfew".

The Patriarch thus put a stop to suggestions that Christmas celebrations might be cut back because of security considerations. "The faithful will attend mass because Iraqis want to celebrate Christmas", he stressed.

Here is the rest of the interview he gave AsiaNews:

What ca you say about yesterday's attacks against Shiites in Karbala and Najaf?

Every Iraqi is saddened by this latest episode of violence and inhumanity. These attacks harmed helpless people and destroyed God's houses where people gathered for prayer. We firmly condemn this violence because it is intended to ruin the country. Instead, we want to rebuild it and live in it in peace.

Who is responsible for these attacks?

They are Iraqis, perhaps pushed and helped by outsiders, but Iraqis none the less. We can't accuse anybody else but we are smart enough to know when we are harming our own country. We ought to be the first to prevent such things from happening again.

Is this an invitation to Iraqis to be more responsible? 

God gave us a brain to know right from wrong. Even if some outsiders want to carry out criminal acts, we should be the first to fight against them using our intelligence.

How was Advent in Iraq this year?

Like other years even though this year we had to be more cautious and prudent because of the danger of new attacks. In any event, we have not put any special security measures in place.

Are there any hopeful signs?

Everyday life is a sign of hope. We are still alive and want to defeat the logic of death. Of course, we must be on our guard against possible attacks, but people go about doing what they always do: go out, go to work, go to school, go to the market, go to shops, go to worship.

And yet every day that goes by we hear about violent acts and people who want to flee.

It is not true that people are fleeing. Iraqis want to stay in their country and live in peace. It is obvious that things are not quiet and so we are more prudent. If a bomb goes off in one part of Baghdad people change their usual route or avoid high risk areas but they do not lock themselves up at home. God has made us prudent and cautious. We must use precautions right now to ensure that life defeats the terrorists' evil logic of death.

What would you like Western Christians do for Christmas?

To Christians around the world—in Italy, in France, in America—I ask that they pray for Iraq, for the Iraqi Church and for its people, whether Christian or Muslim, so that the Lord may give us peace and quiet. This is my wish for Christmas.

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